Sunday, 11 September 2011

Life drawing

My daily life puts me in contact with a fantastic array of people from all walks of life, doing different jobs, with different values, talents and skills.  I love it!  Not a day goes by when I don't hear someone comment about "the one thing" they wish they could do.

I'm no different.  There are lots of things that I can do, some of them very well, but I have my one black spot - drawing.  I can't do it.  I want to do it.  The idea of it appeals to me immensely, but something happens when I put the pencil to paper.  I don't understand what it is, or why it happens.  I'm a visual thinker and great with colour and design.  I can match thread or yarn colour by memory and get it exactly right without a sample to compare it to.  So why this affliction?

Notwithstanding this lack of skill, I am very proud to say that I won third place in the black and white drawing section for 13 year olds at the Toowoomba Show.  It was an abstract piece.  (Of course it was, everything I do is abstract, but this one was meant to be abstract.)  My mother had it laminated and I won $10 and a certificate.  It felt like I won the Archibald Prize.  Somehow, I knew that that was the beginning and end of my career as a visual artist.

Knowing this, you may be surprised to learn that I love to play Pictionary.  While my cows always look like dogs and my dogs look like a series of hairy rectangles it's actually about communicating a concept.  I haven't played it for a while, but a couple of incidents stand out.  Playing with a Swedish visitor I had to draw "magazine rack" for him.  Now being the country of Ikea, you'd think this would have been easy, but if we'd been made to keep going until he answered correctly, we'd still be playing 15 years later!

One of my friends is great at drawing.  This can make for a dull game of Pictionary.  He draws it and you name it. Where's the fun in that?  But one day, there was a misunderstanding.  He misread the card in one of the group rounds where everyone has to draw.  He drew a picture of someone breathing on someone else with them dying as a result of this encounter.  Everyone else was drawing a funeral, so naturally, I went with their hints and started to follow the death route.  We were still going and my team mate started to look at me very, very strangely.  He started to do that weird, mute semaphore which humans do when they're not allowed to speak.  Turns out, he had read the wrong category and was drawing "bad breath".

If you want a challenge, try drawing "unroll".  It's impossible.

Occasionally, I'll be inspired to try to conquer my deficiency and take a class.  The last class I took was at music camp and the object was to draw each other.  I must have exuded an "I can't draw to save myself" vibe  because everyone wanted to sit next to me.  The reason?  If they were sitting next to me, I wouldn't be drawing them!  They had cause.  I made my friend who was teaching the class look like a serial killer.  On my second attempt he was just any guy with a beard.  At least he looked vaguely human, rather than like some kind of demon.

I once dated a life model.  This was something he mentioned in the first 5 minutes of our meeting.  I'm sure it didn't work out because I lack the drawing gene, but who knows if he would have inspired me.  Perhaps I should have stuck with him.

So now, I colour in.  I make patterns and delight in creating a vibrant treat for the eyes - well balanced with gorgeous colours.  It's very meditative and what I need after yet another failed attempt to draw anything recognisable.  I'm sure I will crave to draw for the rest of my life while occasionally attempting to master it, before throwing it away in frustration.

What's the one thing you wish you could do?

I'm off to draw some stick figures.
Self portrait - this is pretty much how I've drawn women since I  first wielded a pencil.


  1. My friend Wayne sent me these comments on this post and has given me permission to post them here:

    Hey, I feel all important now I've been mentioned in Divacultura! I don't remember being made to look like a serial killer (I look like that anyway) but i do remember Avatane...

    But I must point out—at the risk of sounding like a pedant—the error of your thinking when you say "I can't do it". I believe it's simply a matter of practise. I've been life drawing for years and I still cannot draw the way I want to. In fact, if I were to be fair in my assessment, while I have progressed some way towards the quality of drawing to which I aspire, I'm maybe 15% there and I doubt I'll ever make it all the way. And if I did actually achieve it, where do I go then? Where's the challenge?

    Like playing an instrument, acting, anything – NOBODY is just 'good' at it naturally. We all have to practise. My son thinks this way (he's allowed to because he's 13) and I'm trying to show him the benefits of hard work over a long period. But so far he's not listening...

    Speaking of life drawing, have a look at these:!/photo.php?fbid=199371313417317&set=a.199371283417320.49530.155438734477242&type=1&theater
    Wish i could draw like that


  2. Hello Wayne,
    Great to know you're still reading.

    You are correct about my error of saying "I can't do that". What I'm actually saying is "I can't do that as well as all the other things I can do well and I get frustrated because it doesn't come as easily."

    Those drawings on facebook are amazing!

    Would you consider posting your comments on the blog and share them with reader? I'd love you to. I'll even post my response above.

    I did so enjoy that session. For so many reasons.

    I suppose this writing habit thing is a pretty big undertaking and is a demonstration of your exact point - you've got to really practise skills A LOT!